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Tet celebrations in different ethnic groups (February 08, 2005)

Tet, the traditional lunar new year festival, is celebrated in Vietnam as a family reunion, representing their wish for perfection, prosperity, wealth and happiness. But people in different regions celebrate differently, though they share the same meaning for Tet.

The Thai ethnic group in northern Vietnam have a tradition of ‘Xuoi Na Pi Mo’, or washing your face, during Tet. In the first day of the new lunar year, the Thai people, young and old alike, go to the stream or water sources, and take a tree branch on their way. They wash their face and use the tree branch to dash water on their bodies, while singing songs with lyrics about wiping out the bad luck away.

The Ha Nhi ethnic people in the northern provinces of Son La and Lai Chau call their celebration ‘K’Ho Igia Igia’. During the celebration, they go to the Gia Khe Ia Cooc forest, considered by them as a holy forest, to pray and then play on their swings. They believe that the swing will bring about a prosperous new year.

The Khmer ethnic people in southern Vietnam have a festival called ‘Chol Chnam Thmay’, during which, they go to the pagoda to pray for good luck in the new year. They also offer breakfast and lunch for the monks, called the ‘Ven Chong Han’ ritual. They also make sand dunes around the pagoda to wish for happiness, and fly lanterns in the wind to bid farewell to the old year and welcome the new year.

The Muong ethnic people have a tradition of ‘spring wish’, similar to that of the Viet (Kinh) majority people. During the first week of the new lunar year, the each hamlet organise a group of people to visit each family for Tet wishing.

In addition, some of the Vietnamese villages also join in the ‘Khai Ha’ ritual, to open the Tet celebrations. The Khai Ha starts with worshipping of the village god, a ritual to drive away evil, and wish for a prosperous new year.

During Tet, every Vietnamese family offer the Chung cake, or sticky rice cake and the five fruit tray to their gods and ancestors, representing the five basic elements of iron, wood, fire, water and soil.

Each ethnic group has its own traditions and rituals during Tet time, but they all blossom in the colourful picture of the Vietnamese culture.

Reprinted with permission from Nhan Dan Newspaper


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